III NERD winner of 2019 research culture award

Recognizing the increasing need for support of early career researchers (ERCs) in biomedical sciences, Lilach Sheiner and Angela Bradshaw co-founded a new cross-institute initiative the “Network for Early career Researcher Development (NERD)”.

The mission of NERD is to support and advocate for ECRs in ICAMS and IIIs and is run by ECRs for ECRs. Since its initiation in 2016, NERD has grown year on year with increasing numbers of ECRs actively participating in the many NERD activities.

Working with a committed team of ECRs, Lilach and Ange jointly co-ordinate NERD, which is also supported financially for special projects by the Directors of III and ICAMS.  The “bottom-up” strategy provides a ‘real life’ understanding of the many and varied challenges facing ECRs as they progress their careers. NERD has impacted the academic environment positively for young researchers by promoting a collegial, supportive and respectful environment. Through NERD, the visibility and needs of ECRs is more apparent to the senior management in the Institutes, which is reflected in the NERD annual survey and the Athena SWAN surveys. As the word got out of NERDs activities, ECRs in other parts of the College have joined, specifically from ICS.  The membership of ECRs in MVLS has grown from about 20 to over 250 in just 3 years, highlighting the need and success of the network.

The mission of NERD is to 1) provide career support, information and advice to ECRs; 2) foster collegiality and sharing of resources between Institutes; and 3) better understand career challenges facing ECRs, and advocating for their needs to Senior management. The NERD committee has organized 22 events, including panel sessions highlighting post-academic career options, workshops on CVs and fellowship writing, and social events that bring together MVLS ECRs working across the Garscube and Gilmorehill campuses. In 2018, NERD launched its inaugural pump-priming award, the final stage of a three-part ISSF co-funded grant workshop series that included a facilitated grant-idea-brewing session, a grant writing workshop, and a mock grant review panel. NERD also has a website, moodle page, active twitter feed and a monthly newsletter, which signpost further training and job opportunities to its membership. 

In founding NERD, Lilach and Angela recognized the need for an ECR-focused and ECR-led network that identifies and provides comprehensive support. NERD has improved communication challenges between senior and junior staff, strengthened collaborations between III and ICAMS and provided a welcoming platform through which ERCs can connect.

Lilach, Ange and the NERD committee are most deserving of the Research Culture Award. As a team, they have enriched the research environment for young and senior researchers and importantly have contributed to a positive culture of support, collaboration, promotion and encouragement for fellow ECRs.